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US tourist stunned he ended up in hellhole jail

US tourist stunned he ended up in hellhole jail

A Virginia dad who forgot he had ammunition in his luggage while going on a cruise says it’s a living “nightmare” to be facing a minimum 12-year sentence in a Turks and Caicos prison.

Tyler Wenrich, a 31-year-old paramedic, has been on Grand Turk Island since his arrest over two weeks ago after two 9mm rounds were detected in his bag at a security checkpoint as he returned to the Royal Caribbean Cruise ship following a beach excursion.

“I can almost not wrap my head around it still, and I’m living in it,” he told NBC10 Boston from the island he is not allowed to leave, keeping him from his wife and 1-year-old son.

“It’s hard to believe that it’s happening — and it’s definitely a nightmare.”

Tyler Wenrich in his mugshot. Turks and Caicos police department

Wenrich called it an honest mistake, saying he had the ammo in his bag from prior hunting trips.

“I checked it before I left, and it was just a complete oversight on me, TSA, and the port security,” he said of how he was able to carry it before it was finally detected. “Three groups missed that ammunition.”

The crime used to only lead to a small fine. However, Turks and Caicos lawmakers mandated a 12-year minimum sentence in 2022.

Wenrich posted bail last week and is currently stuck on the island, living with his father as the case moves through the courts.

“I spent about three nights in the jail and then I moved to the prison for about nine nights. It was extremely difficult,” Wenrich said.

“It’s definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through.”

Royal Caribbean has not commented on the incident.

Werich is the latest of several Americans arrested for this offense in recent weeks who are stuck on the island while awaiting sentencing.

Bryan Hagerich, a 39-year-old Pennsylvania father of two, appeared in court in Turks and Caicos on Friday, when a judge said he must stay on the islands for another three weeks until his sentencing, wheret he will learn if he must serve the minimum sentence of 12 years or if his case can be adjudicated.

Oklahoma father-of-two Ryan Watson, 40, of Ohlahoma, was charged with having ammo in his bag on April 12, and also remains on the island.

Another US citizen, Michael Lee Evans, 72, pleaded guilty to having ammunition in his bag on April 24, according to local news outlet the Turks & Caicos Sun. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 18.

An additional four Americans who were detained over the firearm/ammo law since it was enacted last year have also had their cases adjudicated and instead were ordered to pay fines. One American received an eight-month prison sentence.

The TSA requires ammunition to be in a secure case in checked luggage, but Turks and Caicos laws are different.

The U.S. Embassy in Nassau currently has a travel alert that states “[f]irearms, ammunition (including stray bullets), and other weapons are not permitted in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI),” adding that “TCI authorities strictly enforce all firearms-and-ammunition-related laws.”

“The penalty for traveling to TCI with a firearm, ammunition, or other weapon can result in a minimum custodial sentence of twelve (12) years,” the embassy states in the alert. “If you bring a firearm or ammunition into TCI, even inadvertently, we will not be able to secure your release from custody. You are subject to TCI laws and must follow local law enforcement procedures.”

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